Malik Jackson – Broncos to the Jaguars ($85.5M over 6 years)
Jackson’s move to Jacksonville was the initial move that we all thought broke the NFL free agency, and maybe it paved the way for number 2 on our list. Last year saw a huge improvement from Blake Bortles and the rest of the Jags offence but the defence let them down a few to many times last season, hence the signing of one of the most impactful defensive players from Denver this year. The deal itself, albeit huge goes to prove how much of a passing league the NFL is, if you’re someone who can get to a quarterback then you’re going to be paid big bucks. The two seem to be a perfect fit for each other with Jackson providing his best games from the inside shoulder of the OT (providing more pressure than any other defensive NFL player), a system which Denver rarely use and Jacksonville often use. Not many players can work incredibly well in both an inside and outside system. I have a feeling that we haven’t seen the best of Malik Jackson quite yet.
Olivier Vernon – Dolphins to Giants ($85M over 5 years)
The Dolphins played a smart game in applying the transition tag until the signing of Mario Williams was complete, allowing them to have security on the deal and get compensation in Vernon. The Miami native is fresh off the back of a steady but more importantly consistent season having made 61 tackles and 7.5 sacks over the course of 2015. With last season in mind and the lack of defensive pressure coming out of New York, this move never really came as much of a surprise. Vernon isn’t going to transform this team by himself but along with the returning Pierre Paul and the signings of both Jenkins and Harrison, I’m expecting big things from the New Yorkers. Much like the deal that took Jackson to Jacksonville, this one represents the shift in playing styles in the NFL and the sheer money now available in the game also. Vernon had a ‘good’ season, but did he have a season worthy of $52.5M in guarantee? Whatever we think, Olivier Vernon has just changed the game.
Bruce Irvin – Seahawks to Raiders ($40M over 4 years)
Cast your mind back to 2012 – Bruce Irvin was the lead in what we later found out was an incredible draft class, but now, the Super Bowl 48 winner and 49 runner-up will be spending the next chapter of his career playing in Oakland. Irvin was always a risk out of college, one that paid off however. During his rookie year the West Virginia graduate made 8 sacks and when teams began to neutralize his effect he modified his game and moved to OLB in the Seahawks 4-3 scheme. His first season at OLB saw him tally up two pick 6’s and his second season at OLB saw him rack up 38 tackles across 15 games. The Raiders needed to strengthen the strong side so the move isn’t all that surprising, even less so when you consider Irvin has now been reunited with DC Ken Norton who coached the LB core in Seattle in 2014. A versatile player, on a favourable contract in a position he now feels more at home, perhaps he’s not the biggest mover of 2016 but he’ll certainly be effective for the Raiders.
Janoris Jenkins – Rams to Giants ($62M over 5 years)
This deal taking Jenkins to the Giants will make him the 2nd highest paid cornerback in the NFL, behind the handsomely paid Darrelle Revis. Jenkins was drafted in 2012 and since then has gone on to become one of game changing secondary’s playing at an incredible level. The Giants recognize this is a high risk – high reward type scenario with this deal, there’s no denying that Jenkins has a lot of room for improvement – especially with ‘burn statistics’ showing he gets beat on average every 1 in 3 plays. During his first 4 seasons in the NFL Janoris has returned 50% of his interceptions for touchdowns, and although he often has lapses in position discipline he is still one of the most talented corners in the NFL. In fact since 2012 Jenkins has not only recorded 10 interceptions but he’s also recorded 35 pass break-ups (only a handful of players have managed that in that period). The only concern anybody should have is whether Jenkins can make the adjustments to prove a solid player down the outside, it’s unlikely that we’ll see him become a lockdown cornerback but with some slight improvements to his pursuit abilities he can become a reliably strong corner. It’s time to put up or shut up for the former UNA player.
Danny Trevathan – Broncos to Bears ($24.5M over 4 years)
Damn Daniel….This one hit harder than I had expected. As a Bronco, I originally wasn’t to fussed when I realised Danny was hitting free agency this year but the more I’ve seen him progress as a player this year makes me realise how important to this Denver Defence he really was. As a player he’s comfortable across all 3 downs, able to play against the run and the pass equally as well as each other, an incredibly balanced player. The fact he’s linking up with John Fox again will only help his ability to settle in Chicago but it’s important to remember that he will be playing in a new defence, a shift to a 3-4 scheme will take some adjusting. As a player, Trevathan is one of the best ball hawking middle backers in the NFL and was certainly instrumental to Von Miller receiving the freedom he did this past year. For Chicago, they gain a player in a position they’ve had issues with. Both Shea McClellin and Christian Jones weren’t the answer so they’re now gaining a player who could be the missing piece of the puzzle. Strengthening is needed in the secondary but the core of that front 7 are strong enough to put in a hell of a shift next season, a season in which I’m sure young Danny boy will be flying.